Steve was a young boy when the Master of the Samurai called upon him for training. His mother, Stevie, cried for forty days and 39 nights after putting her only son on the conveyor belt that took him from one side of the mall to the other, where the Samurai Training Studio and Teriyaki Palace was located. Her tears fell fast, nearly flooding the Jamba Juice and upsetting the janitorial robots. Despite her sadness, she knew that her son had a special gift, and that only the Samurai could help her son to realize his true potential. She also took comfort in knowing that the mall closed at 9, so she would be picking her beloved son up then.
Master Hiro Kawasaki had been running the Samurai Training Studio and Teriyaki Palace for forty years, since he changed his name from Juan Garcia upon graduating from the Samurai Training Studio and Sushi Restaurant, in the older mall that had since been torn down after its anchor store closed. His Master, the famous warrior Eugene Nagasaki, (formerly Thomas Kincaid, no relation to the hack painter), was viciously murdered on the night of Hiro’s graduation by Hiro’s rival student, John Kreese, who went on to start the Cobra Kai Dojos. Hiro swore an oath of vengeance, but never needed to act thanks to some kid from New Jersey. He wanted to retire, but so far, no one had proven themselves worthy enough to ensure the continued survival of the Samurai and Food Service Tradition.
Master Hiro looked toward the end of the conveyor with concern. The batch of children heading toward him surely were not the heirs to the tradition. Little brats, snot-nosed, clutching the $19.95 their parents gave them, looking scared and wishing they were home playing their video games, stood in a moving line that was approaching the studio door. Master Hiro tried his best to hide his disappointment, and convinced himself that the $19.95 lesson fee which included one Teriyaki lunch, made this waste of his time less wasteful.
“Children, gather in the dining room for lunch!” Master Hiro called as the belt began dumping the children into the door, all of which stayed on the belt until the end, falling over after failing to step off the belt in time.
All, that is, except Steve. Steve noticed the other children, and quickly stepped off the side of the belt onto the floor of the studio, avoiding the fall. Master Hiro noticed, but attempted to temper any hopes.
“Just because the kid isn’t stupid enough to fall over, doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps he may earn a job in the kitchen, but he is no Master,” Hiro thought to himself, even though his Samurai Sense told him otherwise.
The children filled the dining room and sat nervously. Some attempted to make friends, talking with the children who sat next to them, about video games, movies, and the latest trendy toys. Steve did not talk. Steve was focused on the kitchen window.
He had never experienced such sights and sounds. Flashes of fire from the grill, knives flying and deftly chopping the chicken into strip-like pieces, basic salads being expertly tossed in mayo-based dressings, and teriyaki sauce flying through the air onto the chicken they would be consuming. Steve was mesmerized.
Hiro silently took note, finding it more difficult not to hope that his successor had been found.
Workers emerged from the kitchen, bringing plates of teriyaki chicken over white rice, with a salad on the side. Steve dove right in, feeling as though he found a new favorite food. Most of the other children seemed quite content, except for one.
“Billybob? Why don’t you eat?” Master Hiro asked to the child sitting in front of his food with his arms crossed.
“I’m sorry, Master Hiro. I can’t eat this,” Billybob answered.
“Why not? Teriyaki is good,” Master Hiro replied, seemingly hurt by the boy’s refusal to eat.
“The sauce has gluten, doesn’t it?” Billybob asked in reply.
“You have Celiac?” Master Hiro asked in return.
“No, but I’m allergic,” Billybob replied.
“Wait, I know something that will help you with this affliction,” Hiro told the boy.
From the kitchen emerged an older man carrying a set of needles. He approached Billybob and asked him, “Your mom signed the release?”
“Y-yes,” Billybob stuttered, nervously.
“Good. Good,” the old man told him before adding, “Now lift up your shirt.”
Billybob lifted up his shirt and the old man began making marks on the boy’s back. The children looked on in fascinated horror as the old man picked up the needles and began sticking them into the boy’s back. They were amazed when the boy did not cry.
“I know what this is. You are doing acupuncture. Mommy says she tried it for her gluten allergy, but it didn’t work,” Billybob told the old man.
The old man did not respond. Upon removing his needles from Billybob, he simply looked at Hiro and shook his head from side to side.
Master Hiro addressed Billybob and told the young boy, “Not acupuncture. That man is my personal physician. Allergy testing. You have no gluten allergy, just a mother who attempts to blame her poor feeling on food, rather than the depression she carries from your father leaving her. Now she is trying to pass her unhappiness to you. When she picks you up tonight, you tell her you have no gluten allergy, and the support check is in the mail. ”
With that, Billybob joined the other children in eating the Teriyaki. When they were all finished, Master Hiro called the children into the studio where the real training would commence. Front and center for that training, stood Steve.
“Children,” Master Hiro began, “It is time to learn the way of the Samurai. Stand on one foot.”
The sound of children falling over echoed throughout the mall. Hiro stood with his eyes closed, not wanting to be disappointed by the sight of his unworthy students. Sadness began to fill his mind, as he questioned whether he would be the last of the Samurai and Food Service Masters. His acceptance was broken by a small voice that asked, “Now what, Master Hiro?”
Hiro opened his eyes to see one child standing on one leg among the fallen disappointments. His eyes welled up with tears as he looked upon his successor, Steve Steven Stevenson.